Every leadership book I have ever read has outlined a long list of the different types of boss that a person can be. There’s the micromanager, the dictator, the abuser and the complete and utter idiot. There’s also the boss that can’t delegate, does not trust their team and has a hard time letting go.
These are all examples of bad bosses. A boss who cannot get over themselves enough to lead their team into battle is not a leader. That boss is a coward.
Out of all the leadership books on my shelf, I have yet to come across one that describes the kind of boss I am.
I am a difficult boss. I know what I am. My team knows what I am. Even other managers know what I am.
From the outside, my management style is confusing. For those who are too used to dealing with the bosses already mentioned, I am an enigma. From the outside, I look like I might fall into the bad boss category. But if you spend five minutes on a team with someone like me, it becomes clear that I am not mean, controlling or an idiot. I am simply difficult.
Difficulty is a word with many negative connotations. Because of these preconceived ideas, too many people associate difficult bosses with being a bad boss. There is nothing further from the truth. A difficult boss will not shout obscenities at their team for the sake of it. They know how to delegate and how to trust the right people.
A difficult boss is not a bad boss at all. In fact, a difficult boss is the kind of boss that anyone who wants to grow in their position wants to have. A difficult boss pushes you to become the best version of yourself at work. It’s a leadership style that sits comfortably between the overbearing boss who will only excuse you from a meeting if your dead and the kind of boss whose team walks all over them.
I do not heap praise on my team for mediocre work. For some people, this seems a harsh thing to say. In my eyes, it is not harsh. It is merely pragmatic.
A good boss values their employees. They will say please and thank you and recognize that they need their team to succeed. As a difficult boss, I do all of these things. I thank my barista at Starbucks for giving me the coffee I need to get through the day, why would I not thank my team?
But while I understand social cues, I am not about to tell my team that they have done a fantastic job when they haven’t. Handing out praise left and right does not benefit anyone. My employees have to work to earn sincere and enthusiastic praise.
But if you ask them whether they think I am mean, they will tell you no. In fact, they appreciate that the praise they get is sincere and duly earned. It just feels better to know that when your boss tells you you’ve done a fantastic job, you actually did do a great job!
As a difficult boss, I am not hard to please just because I feel like being that way. The reason that I demand more from my team is because I want more for them. I want to help them grow and develop both professionally and personally.
I’m not an army drill sergeant. I do not need to berate my employees to force them to transcend their boundaries. But the principle is the same. You do not get what you do not ask for in life. I ask for more of my employees so that they give more. It is that simple.
I do not want more for my team for my own gain. That kind of boss is a bad boss. Of course, I stand to benefit when my team excels. Wanting more for my team is about wanting them to grow.
I believe in my team and I know they are good, honorable people. But I also know that everyone sometimes need an extra incentive to reach their potential. In fact, I need that extra boost myself. When I see my team working to reach their potential, I am inspired to keep pushing myself along with them. That does not make be a bad boss or a selfish boss. It makes me a leader.
I am a difficult boss. Anyone will tell you that. But I am not a bad boss. If I was a bad boss, you would not be able to question it.
Featured photo credit: ylmworkshop via flickr.com
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